Friday, August 8, 2008

Children's Hope International and Visit to the Quake Spot


This morning we left Chengdu and traveled two and a half hours by taxi to Mianyang. This is the area that the May 12th earthquake hit hardest.

A native Washingtonian (name withheld for the blog) is our guide. She is a volunteer with Children's Hope International. She is a Cornell grad, is fluent in Chinese, and has lived in China for the last year. It was through her that our invitation to visit Chengdu was made possible.

As we entered ground zero we saw acres of unoccupied, newly constructed, completed walled housing. Cement pavement covered every inch and there was no mud to be seen throughout the rows and rows of these yet vacant units. Why was this still unoccupied?

We continued our travel alongside, bicycles, peddle carts and shuffling pedestrians further into the quake area viewing damaged buildings all along the way. Then we entered the tent city we had come to visit. Again, I speak in terms of acres. There were acres of blue plastic tents. The recent rain produced mud between each unit. The adults are without jobs and sleep much of the day while the kids make do around the mud. There are no toys.

The shelter does boast a communal toilet and showers. And, the showers are hot thanks to banks and banks of solar cells lined up along the road front.

We made our way through the rows to a section where a CHI sponsored tent was located. Ethan made instant friends with the kids who had lost their mothers and fathers. He ducked into the tent and laid on the mattresses that covered the floor.

The CHI staff warmly greeted us. It had recently rained but it was sweltering. From some corner water appeared and we held our conversation in the sun.

CHI is a Chinese non-profit that works through the Chinese government agency that controls child placement. Each child here is looking for a sponsor and, hopefully, adoption.

We will visit the CHI headquarters in Beijing next week. But today, we saw children like 9 year old Ping Ping. She was the little girl with the big smile and kind eyes. With organizations like Children's Hope International kids like Ping Ping will have a chance.

We were surrounded by tent camp residents as we walked back to the taxi. These people will be in the camps for months to come. But, I hope the vacant housing will be made available...available to Ping Ping. Now, I have a name.

We went right to the airport and arrived in Beijing around midnight.

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